Pipes are a calling – Schantz Organ Co. marks 150 years
Abraham Schantz, founder
St. Philip Neri, Bronx, New York 2002
One of Schantz Organ Company’s recent projects is completing a restoration of an organ built in 1963 for the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City.
St. Mary’s Church in Massillon
PHOTO FROM SCHANTZORGAN.COM
Executive staff members from left, Jeffrey D. Dexter, vice-president and tonal director, Eric J. Gastier, vice-president, design and engineering, Victor B. Schantz, president.
ORRVILLE One of the top organ builders in the United States is celebrating its 150th anniversary, and the public is invited to an open house this month and a rare tour of the Orrville shop.
The Schantz Organ Company, 626 S Walnut St., which developed its national reputation after World War II and has customers from around the globe, is marking the milestone all year.
A highlight is an open house 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, April 29. Admission is free.
Visitors to the open house will be able to see how organ pipes are made, voiced and tuned, view what an organ blower looks like, see how the mechanism causes the pipes to play, and watch the CNC machine making organ parts. Free souvenirs will be available. Food trucks – including Lerch’s donuts – will be onsite during the open house to purchase lunch or a snack.
“I hope that they would leave with a deeper appreciation of how complicated the pipe organ is,” said Luke Tegtmeier, service manager at Schantz, who is coordinating the anniversary celebration. “People just see the pipes and don’t realize the very complex mechanism that operates those pipes and how to make those pipes.”
Old world craftsmanship meets modern techniques at Schantz Organ Company, which according to its website, is the largest and oldest American pipe organ builder under management of the founding family.
When that unmistakable reverent organ music fills a sacred space like a church or floods a cavernous concert hall, one can almost feel and breathe the echoing tones. In some instances, pipes that reach to the ceiling are the main attraction. Other times, one’s gaze may fall on the passionate organist at the helm of the instrument eliciting a familiar refrain not only with their well-trained fingers navigating the double decker keyboard but also their feet expertly finding the pedals below.
Besides the musician, It’s the inner workings behind the scenes – or under the hood, so to speak – of this complex and fascinating instrument that the audience and listeners don’t see that are the stars of each performance.
Schantz Organ Company does it all: building parts, tuning pipe organs of all shapes and sizes, rebuilding and restoring, and evolving with the times. At the corner of Oak and Walnut streets, the facilities have been located on the same site since 1901 but have grown to match demand and need with numerous additions, including a three-story assembly room.
According to classichistory.net, the first pipe organs were conceived and built in Greece around 200 B.C. A third-century B.C. engineer, Ctesibius of Alexandria, is claimed by Greek authors to be the inventor, the website states. The organ served as a demonstration of the principles of hydraulics rather than as a musical instrument.
Sounds a bit like Schantz Organ Company’s Luke Tegtmeier.
He remembers attending the company’s 125th anniversary celebration as a kid. Now, as service manager for Schantz, his fall schedule is filled with traveling across Ohio and surrounding states coordinating the tuning for almost 200 pipe organs during choir season and in time for Christmas church services. He makes sure organs at chapels, schools, concert halls, homes and other venues are in tip-top shape. On Sundays, he scratches his artistic itch and he’s on the other side of the instrument as the professional musician playing the organ at Trinity UCC in Wooster.
Tegtmeier grew up on a dairy farm in Congress. He went to university and became a full-time church organist and choir master. He had an even bigger calling though.
“I always knew that I would be interested in organ building as well,” he said.
He acknowledges the “farm boy” side of him growing up interested in mechanics and how things work, and the artistic side of making music and pursuing a career as a professional organist making beautiful sounds of the mechanism.
He joins others on staff who play the instruments as well as build, tune and design them.
“It’s a good mix of those two things,” he said.
Tegtmeier said what he loves about his job is every situation is different and every organ is treated differently according to the space it’s housed in, and even dependent upon the chosen repertoire, the choir, and what the organist focuses on.
With 35 employees, Schantz Organ Company is one of the top five organ builders in the country as far as size, Tegtmeier said. More information about other members of the staff and leadership team are available at schantzorgan.com.
One hundred and fifty years since it was founded, the company is going strong and contracts are going out through 2026. Schantz Organ Company is one of the only companies in the world that makes blowers in shop. The company ships blowers to organ builders across the continent.